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After Mass. firefighter’s car is stolen, he wants the helmet in trunk back

Lawrence Firefighter Patrick Sweeney kept one of his grandfather’s military dog tags in his helmet

LawrenceMassFD.jpg

Photo/Lawrence Fire Department

By Will Katcher
masslive.com

LAWRENCE, Mass. — The helmet stolen from Lawrence firefighter Patrick Sweeney wasn’t just any fire helmet. Inside was one of his grandfather’s military dog tags, which traveled with Sweeney to medical calls and into burning buildings.

“My grandfather was like a father to me,” Sweeney said. “Having him with me on the job was something I kept close.”

Sometime between Sunday night and Monday evening, Sweeney’s car was stolen from outside his girlfriend’s apartment in Wilmington, he said. His firefighting gear, helmet included, was in the trunk.

The mementos are symbolic, Sweeney said, but “it’s your last line of defense at the end of the day.”

“I’m more upset about the helmet than I am the car,” he said. “I know it sounds stupid but it’s something I can’t explain.”

The helmet was a gift from Sweeney’s uncle when he first began as a firefighter seven years ago in January.

Now a member of the Lawrence Fire Department’s Engine 7 team, Sweeney said the helmet is what differentiates each firefighter from the pack. Some tuck a photo of their spouse or kids inside their helmets. Sweeney knows police officers who place a picture beneath their bullet-resistant vests. He placed one of his grandfather’s military dog tags just behind the department shield on his helmet and had hoped to carry it with him until he could one day hand it down to his children.

His request to whoever took the car, regarding the helmet: “Just throw it out the window as you drive by the Lawrence Fire Department.”

On Monday night, a few hours after the car disappeared, Sweeney posted on Facebook asking for any help or information locating his possessions. The post has since been shared by more than 2,800 people.

“Gear can be replaced, a helmet can be replaced absolutely,” Sweeney said. “Those little mementos are things you can’t replace or get back.”

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